A police source familiar with the investigation into the shooting of Hofstra student Andrea Rebello and armed intruder Dalton Smith told Newsday that a Nassau officer’s had been ruled justified. The Nassau County Police Department has not made the ruling by the shooting team public.
“The officer’s actions were deemed to be justified within departmental regulations and the law,” the source said.
The other options were to find Rebello’s shooting unjustified, meaning it was a criminal act, or accidental. The department has classified shootings as accidental in the past, but the source said it wasn’t applicable in the Rebello shooting because Officer Nikolas Budimlic intentionally pulled the trigger.
“It’s tragic, but under law it was justified,” the source said.
Eugene O’Donnell, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, did not find the assessment surprising, saying it’s “not generally thought appropriate to hold a police officer criminally responsible for a good-faith mistake in an on-duty event.”
“There are other remedies,” O’Donnell said. “The family can sue, and the department can impose discipline on the officer and have retraining going forward."
It is not known whether Budimlic was disciplined after the shooting. He took sick leave and then was transferred within the department to a Homeland Security division.
Rebello’s family has filed a notice of claim against Nassau County, an indication they will file a lawsuit. The family’s attorney, David Roth, said he was not aware that the shooting had been found justified until informed by a Newsday reporter. He called Rebello’s death “senseless.”
“To our understanding no grand jury has been convened to investigate the officer’s shooting of Andrea, and the family cannot understand why,” Roth said.